2020 was a tale of two seasons for the North Huskies. In 2021, Gang Green is working hard to make sure it's not a twice told tale.
"Our Jeckyll and Hyde moments there," says North head coach Joe Paradaen.
"We got off to really hot start," says North senior offensive/defensive lineman Garrett Mooney, "and then we just kind of fell apart the second half."
And that's putting it mildly. For the first five weeks of the 2020 season, no team looked better than the North Huskies. Winners of five straight, including shockers over Castle and Memorial had Gang Green breathing rarified air. Then, the two-headed monster of injuries and Coronavirus, sent head coach Joe Paradaen's squad into a four game tailspin, followed by a first round loss in sectionals.
"That's one of the big things we've been focusing on is just staying tough when things get hard," says Mooney. "Just keep working. Keep pounding on the rock."
"We proved that we were able to play with a lot of teams," says Paradaen. "We also showed that we're vulnerable at times.
We've got to be able to prove that we can be consistent every Friday night, on a week in and week out basis."
On offense, the Huskies return nine starters, however they graduated arguably their biggest weapon in Cape Presswood, who rushed for nearly 14 touchdowns and 17 touchdowns in 2020. But Paradaen has the replacement parts to re-load.
"We have about probably the deepest running back position since I've been here," says Paradaen. "Any time you return your quarterback, Ethan Brawdy, he'll be a three year starter for us, that makes you feel really comfortable and sleep well at night. He's just a real heady kid and makes really good decisions on the field for us. Having that in place. We return several offensive linemen. We return some guys on the outside in Cameron Gelhausen, a basketball player we got to come out last year, and Jaylonn Mitchell, who's kind of a multi-puprose tool we use as a slot or a wide receiver or as a running back even. He even can play some back-up quarterback for us."
Defense may have been North's greatest strength and severest weakness last season as lack of depth proved to be Gang Green's downfall. Paradaen vows to cure that in 2021.
"Kind of falls on me as a head coach," says Paradaen. "We didn't have that "next guy in" fully prepared to where we could continue with that same M.O. that we had on defense. We return a lot of guys defensively, so we're really excited about that, particularly in the middle and on the back end. Ethan King, who's going to be a three-year starter for us now. Mitchell Happe, who's played inside linebacker for us. And T.J. Hankins. So, up the middle we feel really good about what we have. We've just got to fill a couple of spots on the outsides, but I think if our defense can regain that momentum, we should be a really good unit."
"Talent-wise, I think we can compete with just about anybody," says Mooney. "It's really just a mindset. We feel really good, just kind of play physical. It's not really about weightroom numbers, which is what a lot of guys look at. It's just attack anyone who's in front of us, no matter who it is."
Coming off back-to-back 5-and-5 campaigns, Paradaen appears to have the Husky program on solid footing. Now, entering his fourth season at the helm, he's looking to take it to the next level.
"We're starting to implement something that will hopefully carry a little more weight," says Paradaen. "It's going to be our program motto. And that is "LEGACY". The first part of it is L-E-G is "love every guy". I think that carries a lot of weight. And the last part is "always challenge yourself". We feel like if those guys do those two things, week in and week out, day to day, then they're not only going to make themselves better within our program, but it will make them better as human beings moving forward, as well."
"Legacy for us, is more like starting a legacy for the people after us," says Mooney. "Try to be as great as you can. Build something for the future, so they can have something for the future to grow on and climb on."
The Huskies will get a good early test, as the open up at Castle August 20th. That does it for sports tonight.